Friday, October 05, 2007

GCC Presents: Judy Larsen and All the Numbers

Okay, I'm not sure what I'm more impressed with: the fact that Judy Larsen has five kids and still has time to write, or the fact that she was selected as Target's breakout author in September '06, when All the Numbers first hit shelves.

Here's the scoop on the book - how good does this sound?

Recently divorced and navigating the uncharted territory of single parenthood, Ellen Banks is a tough but loving teacher and a devoted mother to her two sons, Daniel and James. When they take their summer trip from their home in Madison, Wisconsin to their best friends’ lake house for weekend, she has no idea that her life is about to irrevocably change. While Ellen sits on a nearby dock, a teen on a jet ski shatters their perfect day when he hits James. Suddenly Ellen is faced with decisions that are every parent’s worst nightmare. Life support, organ donation. And then, a funeral. A grieving sibling who blames himself for the death of his brother. A distant ex-husband, friends and family who don’t know what to say or how to help, lawyers, judges and policemen—none who can make the hurt go away. Healing the empty space in Ellen’s heart and soul is almost too much to bear. But she is determined to see justice done for her son, and to heal the deep wounds in her family. All the Numbers culminates in a highly charged trial which, in an unexpected turn, leads Ellen and Daniel to a new beginning.

Lucky for us, Judy stopped by to answer all of my questions:

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?
Well, I was sitting on a dock at a lake in Wisconsin with my best friend, Her girls and my sons were playing in the water and a jet skier went by. And I just started thinking,
"What if?" What if the kids had been out too far? What if the jet skier hadn't been paying attention. What would that do to me as a mother, as a friend? The story flowed from there. I think, in a way, I'd been writing it ever since my kids were born. That's the biggest fear for most parents--losing a child. So I explored it through my character.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
I stole quite a bit from my real life--some have even suggested I cannibalized it, but I think that's a tad harsh. My main character Ellen is a single mom with two boys who teaches high school English. I was a single mom with two boys who taught high school English. She's pretty cluttered and likes wine. Me too. But, as you can see from my earlier answer, it makes sense that Ellen was like me. Fortunately, I have not suffered the loss of a child--and there were days I felt like I was tempting fate, (and my younger son did ask once why I killed him in the book) but I had to have that honesty, that connection to make it ring true.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
My big break came 5 years into the process when I went to a week-long writing institute at University of Iowa. The editor who led my workshop really liked my first chapter and offered to introduce me to some agents. That's when everything fell into place. Two weeks later I had an agent and within 3 months we'd sold it to Random House.

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I'm right there with you. There's always another blog to check out or another game of computer solitaire to play. So, having a routine is really important. I try to write every morning (so I never make appointments in the mornings if I can help it). I need good coffee and legal pads and a couple good ink pens. And then I try to challenge myself to write at least 1000 words a day.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
Oh, Reese Witherspoon would make a great Ellen. And Bob Hansen should be played by Dennis Quaid (but only if I can be the kiss double!)


Patti said...

i am greatly interested (obsessed) how other writers obtained their agents, kinda like when i was younger and all the older girls had already snagged their first kiss...~ whoa, how did you do that?!~

thanks for this one!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thanks for the profile, Allison. I adore Judy Merrill Larson and her book.


MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Ooh, I met Judy at last year's Midwest Literary Fest--I stalked her in the bathroom so now we're bathroom pals! Ask her, she knows!!

Hi Judy!!

Cindy said...

I think almost ever author I know wants Reese to be the movie version of their literary character!

Great interview, the book sounds wonderful.